Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Critical of Provisions for Elderly

Research conducted by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman suggests that elderly people are reluctant to make complaints about poor healthcare, or do not know how to do so.

56 per cent of those aged over 65 who experienced a problem did not complain owing to worries regarding future treatment.

A further 20 per cent of those surveyed did not even know how to submit a complaint, while one-in-three felt that any form of complaint would have made minimal or no difference to the situation.

The ombudsman reflected that many elderly people are simply suffering in silence, and that this is an issue of which health service workers need to be aware.

Julie Mellor from the ombudsman suggested that the attitude of the NHS could lead to missed opportunities to improve the service for elderly people.

The research involved a national survey of almost 700 people over the age of 65, as well as focus groups and case studies.

Increasingly it seems that there is a technological gulf between the elderly and the NHS.

One carer told the authors of the report that when older people experienced a problem, not only do they not know where to go, but they are often referred to a computer or website to which they have no access.

While library usage can be an option, in many cases elderly people simply do not have the skills to use these automated systems.

The report recommended a more proactive approach from NHS providers, saying they should make sure all users know how to complain and are reassured there will not be repercussions.

Although the report generally painted a negative picture of the situation, it was not all bad news for the NHS.

The report did state that some form of progress had been made, with the government having already made steps to explore a new streamlined public ombudsman service in order to handle complaints in the future.

But despite this relatively cheery note, campaigners still consider the research a significant cause for concern.

Commenting on the issue, Age UK director Caroline Abrahams suggested that the NHS was fundamentally failing to pay heed to the experiences and viewpoints of elderly people.

“Seeking and responding to older people’s views and experiences is crucial if we are to prevent future care scandals like those that have too often blighted our hospitals and care homes in recent years.”

Healthwatch England said a universal, independent complaints advocacy service that was easy to find and simple to use would improve the situation.

With the NHS under increasing pressure, it is clear that streamline processes need to be put in place to ensure that the elderly are dealt with more efficiently.


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